Friday, November 12, 2010

Piano Jams

Last night I started teaching Riley how to play the piano. Let's just say, I got off on totally the wrong foot. I forgot lesson number one for training:

If you're going to teach locksmithing, don't start out by teaching people the history of locks; show 'em how to pick a lock.

I started out trying to show Riley how to read music. And that's about as interesting as the history of locks. Plus, she wasn't getting it. And she's a bright kid. She got instantly frustrated and buried herself in the sofa after about 5 minutes into it.

"I never accomplish anything like this!!!" she wailed.

I realized I had failed. Granted, Riley has a very short stack of patience when it comes to learning something new and often gives up quickly if she's not a natural at it.  But I was very concerned that I was turning her off to making music for life (like I have turned her off to riding bikes forever and ever amen).

"Listen," I reasoned. "This is not about your inability to accomplish something; it's my fault. I should have started with something fun."

Eventually, I struck on a good reason for her to try again and we sat together at the piano. I put the piano primer aside and we played a good round of Chop Sticks. Then, I showed her the song you can play using a fist and the black keys. Then, I played the rhythm for Heart and Soul and I had her improvise a melody.

It was much better. And we even sounded good. I'd change up the tempo or synchopate it and she'd adjust to the mood. We had a blast. And I was able to work in some nuts and bolts: She can identify "C" on the piano and she knows that the musical alphabet goes from a to g and then starts over again.

I think that's a good start. She can be creative and hands on and I'll sneak in some technique as we go along.


  1. As a former teacher I can tell you that this is not approved curriculum. Millions of students have gone through the tortorous, lockstep tedium of learning scales first with all the excitement of military learning to assemble rifles in the dark... No doubt with the teacher screaming at them like a drill seargent.

    AND as a former teacher, I can tell you that this is the EXACT correct approach if you actually want her to not only LEARN to play piano but actually ENJOY it. You just wont get your contract renewed next year because you're a rebel...

    Which is probably why we alls likes yas so much...

  2. Nicely done! As someone who can play Chopsticks and Mary Had a Little Lamb, I am very proud of both of you.